Similar excuses bedevil the annual ritual of New Year resolutions, which studies show most are not kept. “My husband wanted me to quit smoking, but I just couldn’t stick with it.” “I promised my mom I would start turning in my homework on time, but things got away from me again.” “My wife made me resolve to stop speeding, but…”
Shifting “responsibility” to someone else is only part of the problem here. That’s an excuse, it’s undesirable, and it certainly fouls up the human relationships behind it. Two people are upset. It’s one of the six universal excuses described in my book, "No Excuses."
But the underlying difficulty is that our resolvers have made inauthentic declarations. They didn’t really want whatever; someone else did. And if you are that someone else, your “resolution” is equally doomed—not only can you not declare change for someone else, you are setting yourself up for disappointment because your goal relies on someone else’s action.
Desire is the key to personal transformation. A change may be suggested by someone else; or provoked by a reaction from someone else; but the action that produces change rests on the foundation of personal desire.
For example, I quit smoking (35 years ago!) in order to become the sort of dad I wanted to be after my 3-year-old started gasping and choking pointedly whenever she smelled cigarette smoke on me. I wanted to be a father who is healthy and sets a good example; that desire enabled me to take action and stop.